Saturday, May 29, 2010

Screams town NZ

Queenstown is known as the adventure capital of the world and home to the adventure sport of bungee jumping. Since one can't leave Queenstown without doing something adventurous, we set out to find the most "safe" activity. Our options ranged from bungee jumping (not even an option for Sara), bungee swing, river rafting, parasailing, sky diving, etc. We decided on the Nevis Arc. The largest swing in the world - 300m arc with a 70m free fall. Sara grilled the workers at AJHackett to make sure the activity was safe and that no one had ever died or had injuries. We decided to fly tandem so Sara/Marina and Maria/Chelsie paired off. We knew the 70m suspension bridge would be enough adventure for John so he didn't swing. We'll let the videos and pictures below show you first hand our terror/excitement.

PS - I had originally drafted a special note for my mom not to look at this post but unfortunately a sibling already passed the pics and video on. She was not amused.

PPS - the video is on Facebook. We will try to find a way to put it on the blog

Friday, May 28, 2010

Sailing through middle earth - New Zealand Fjords

Welcome to Chelsie Bitton, Maria Merrill, and Marina Olson! We have loved having them join us in our adventures and particularly love that they speak English. They will be with us as we travel to New Zealand, Fiji, and Australia.

Our first adventure in New Zealand was to Milford Sound (a famous fjord on the south island). We took a coach (bus) from Queenstown to Milford. Our coach driver, Ben, made several stops along the way so we could experience and feel the stunning beauty of the vast landscapes of New Zealand. We saw Mirror Lake (one of the many still lakes in the area), The Chasm, golden tussock high country, snow capped mountain peaks, densely forested valleys, and lots of sheep. You might recognize some of the scenery if you have seen The Lord of the Rings movies.

Once in Milford, we boarded the Milford Mariner for our overnight cruise. We spent the remaining hours of daylight taking pictures on the bow of the ship. The scenery was incredible. We stumbled across a pod of bottle-nosed dolphins and a couple of New Zealand fur seals.

We were exhausted from our travels so most of us headed to our bottom deck cabins around 9pm. John on the other hand had a much different night. John was sharing a room with three complete strangers since the rooms only held four people. John woke up around midnight and needed to go to the bathroom. He didn't want to wake up his roommates up by turning the lights on, so he decided to use the bathroom in the hall. John left the room with no shoes and no keys. Yes, no shoes and no keys. There were no crew workers up and he didn't want to wake anyone up so he spent the night in our assigned booth in the dining room area of the ship (see below for a reenactment photo). The next morning we were up by 5:45 and thought we would be the first ones at breakfast. We walked up the stairs and were shocked to see John sitting at the table with a breakfast feast before him and a half read book at his side. I guess it's just nice eating breakfast in bed once in awhile.

After breakfast (8am) we took a twenty minute nature cruise in a small motor boat. Don't worry, we were completely soaked and frozen to the bone within two minutes. Crazy tourists!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Detour: Uruguay

We spent the day in historic Colonia del Sacramento. We took the Buquebus (high speed ferry that connects Argentina and Uruguay - and also a duty free shoppers paradise). It took about an hour to cross the Rio de la Plata. We explored the historic downtown and enjoyed yummy hamburgers. All in all we like Uruguay and would like to spend more time there but Colonia only needs a couple of hours to explore.

PS - If you are in the market to buy a Studebaker, the one below can be all yours for $600!

Another Local Shout Out

Meet Daniel. He is the guest services manager at the Ultra Hotel in the Palermo Soho neighborhood. Daniel is 40 years old, 2 meters tall, weighs 70 kilos, speaks 7 languages, lived in 14 different cities, grew up in France, UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, and studied hotel management in Switzerland. Daniel has a great personality and is very funny! He has an answer for every question and has plenty of suggestions of things to see and do in the area. If you are traveling to Buenos Aires you should stop by the Ultra Hotel to say hi. We love Daniel and we think you will love him too.

What's new Buenos Aires?

This city is AMAZING!! We immediately felt at home here as soon as we left the airport. The history, food, architecture, and people combine to make a place that is both comfortable and full of energy. Our visit coincides with the lead up to Argentina's bicentennial which will occur on May 25th. This is a very exciting time to be here. The celebratory mood can be felt everywhere. Many buildings and streets are decorated with the white and blue of the Argentine flag and there are numerous concerts and parades commemorating the May Revolution in 1810 that led to Argentina's independence from Spain.

On our first day here, we took a great private tour around the city with a local guide. We got a taste for the various neighborhoods and were able to visit the cities major attractions including the Casa Rosada, La Recoleta Cemetery, and the numerous parks and churches scattered around town. Buenos Aires is sometimes referred to as the Paris of South America due to its elegant buildings and world-renowned cultural institutions.

On our last night, we attended a dinner and tango show at Piazzolla Tango because you can't leave without catching a performance of the dance that originated here on the docks of the old port. Before the show, a couple of dancers made the rounds in the audience and took photos with the guests. Below is our slightly embarrassing pic. While we did quit our day jobs, it certainly wasn't to become tango dancers!

P.S. - Due to the favorable exchange rate, everything here seems like an incredible bargain. There is so much we have wanted to buy. Luckily for our budgets, the space limitation in our backpacks has kept our spending at bay (for the most part).